UPDATE – Safe zone in Syria must be controlled by Turkey: Erdogan

UPDATES WITH MORE REMARKS

ANKARA (AA) – A safe zone in Turkey – Syria's border should be under Turkey's control, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday.

In a televised interview, Erdogan said Turkey is the first country to be affected by the heavy gunfire. “I will take my precaution in the opposite country,” he added.

The Turkish president said peaceful and stabilized environment built in Syria’s Afrin, Jarabulus and al-Bab provinces should be sustained in border regions.

“It is important for us that the U.S. decision to withdraw from Syria does not lead to developments against the interests of our countries and Syria's political unity and territorial integrity,” Erdogan said, adding that a vacuum after the withdrawal to be replaced by terrorist groups is unacceptable.

Erdogan said the Adana Agreement — signed between Ankara and Damascus in 1998 – allows Turkish forces to conduct operations inside Syria near the Turkish border.

Syria has only just begun to emerge from a devastating conflict that began in early 2011 when the Bashar al-Assad regime cracked down on demonstrators with unexpected ferocity.

Last December, Trump made a surprise announcement that the U.S. would be withdrawing all of its troops from Syria and said Daesh had been defeated in the country.

Touching upon Turkey-Egypt relations, President Erdogan said he will never meet with such a person referring to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

"[Mohammed] Morsi took office with 52 percent of votes in elections, but then he was overtaken. Now, Morsi is in jail with his friends," he said. "I have always said that al-Sisi was a coupist for years."

He went on to say that the execution of 42 people under al-Sisi was unacceptable.

  • Turkey, U.S. leaders may exchange visits

Turkish President said he may visit the U.S., or President Donald Trump may pay a visit to Turkey after March 31 local elections.

Erdogan added that he has a "positive relationship" with U.S. counterpart Trump.

“The U.S hasn’t assigned an ambassador to Ankara for a long time,” Erdogan said. “Now, they assign a name they place importance as an ambassador to Turkey.”

Talking about Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar’s visit to Washington, Erdogan said Syria and bilateral relationship between the two countries was the focus of the meeting.

President Erdogan also said the European Parliament's decision to suspend accession negotiations with Turkey did not have "any value" for Ankara.

Safe zone in Syria must be controlled by Turkey: Erdogan

ANKARA (AA) – A safe zone in Turkey – Syria's border should be under Turkey's control, Turkish President said on Saturday.

In a televised interview, Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey is the first country to be affected by the heavy gunfire. “I will take my precaution in the opposite country,” he added.

The Turkish president said peaceful and stabilized environment built in Syria’s Afrin, Jarabulus and al-Bab provinces should be sustained in border regions.

“It is important for us that the U.S. decision to withdraw from Syria does not lead to developments against the interests of our countries and Syria's political unity and territorial integrity,” Erdogan said, adding that a vacuum after the withdrawal to be replaced by terrorist groups is unacceptable.

Syria has only just begun to emerge from a devastating conflict that began in early 2011 when the Bashar al-Assad regime cracked down on demonstrators with unexpected ferocity.

Last December, Trump made a surprise announcement that the U.S. would be withdrawing all of its troops from Syria and said Daesh had been defeated in the country.

Touching upon Turkey-Egypt relations, President Erdogan said he will never meet with such a person referring to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

He went on to say that the execution of 42 people under al-Sisi was unacceptable.

  • Turkey, U.S. leaders may exchange visits

Turkish President said he may visit the U.S., or President Donald Trump may pay a visit to Turkey after March 31 local elections.

Erdogan added that he has "positive relationship" with U.S. counterpart Trump.

“The U.S hasn’t assigned an ambassador to Ankara for a long time,” Erdogan said.

“Now, they assign a name they place importance as an ambassador to Turkey.”

Talking about Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar’s visit to Washington, Erdogan said Syria and bilateral relationship between the two countries was the focus of the meeting.

President Erdogan also said the decision of European Parliament to suspend accession negotiations with Turkey did not have "any value" for Ankara.

Turkey, US leaders may exchange visits

By Faruk Zorlu and Ahmet Salih Alacaci

ANKARA (AA) – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday said he may visit the U.S., or President Donald Trump may pay a visit to Turkey after March 31 local elections.

In a televised interview, Erdogan said that he has "positive relationship" with U.S. counterpart Trump.

Touching upon Turkey-Egypt relations, President Erdogan said he will never meet with such a person referring to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

He went on to say that the execution of 42 people under al-Sisi was unacceptable.

President Erdogan also said the decision of European Parliament to suspend accession negotiations with Turkey did not have "any value" for Ankara.

Indian external minister invited to OIC meeting in UAE

                By Riyaz ul Khaliq </p>                    <p>ANKARA (AA) - India has been invited as “Guest of Honor” at the upcoming meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Abu Dhabi, a statement said on Saturday. </p>    <p>In the statement, Indian External Ministry said its Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj will attend 46th session of the council of foreign ministers of OIC. </p>    <p>The upcoming OIC session will be held in Abu Dhabi on March 1-2 under the theme “50 years of Islamic cooperation: Road map for prosperity and development”.</p>    <p>“The Minister for External Affairs Smt. Sushma Swaraj has been invited by HH Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Foreign Minister of the United Arab Emirates as the ‘Guest of Honour’ to address the Inaugural Plenary,” the statement said. </p>    <p>It was in May 2017 when India’s longstanding demand of being included in the OIC as an observer was proposed by Bangladesh in OIC's Dhaka session.</p>    <p>India is home to the world’s third largest Muslim population.</p>    <p>The Indian External Ministry’s statement said the invitation for OIC “was a milestone in our comprehensive strategic partnership with the UAE”. </p>    <p>“We also see this invitation as a welcome recognition of the presence of 185 million Muslims in India and of their contribution to its pluralistic ethos, and of India’s contribution to the Islamic world,” it added.

Over 50 Turkish experts to work in Akkuyu Nuclear JSC

By Ebru Sengul

ANKARA (AA) – Over 50 new Turkish specialists, receiving diplomas from the Moscow Engineering Physics Institute (MEPhI) of Russia's National Research Nuclear University (NRNU), commenced their work in Akkuyu Nuclear JSC, Russian nuclear energy company Rosatom announced on Saturday.

The second group of Turkish students has graduated from the NRNU MEPhI in Moscow, Rosatom said in a statement, adding that a group of students from Vietnam and Mongolia have also obtained their diploma.

The students received training under programs related to the construction and operation of nuclear power plants and obtained their diploma during an official graduation ceremony in Moscow, attended by Rector of the NRNU MEPhI Mikhail Strikhanov, representatives of the Turkish embassy and other guests of honor.

"We will pursue our collaboration and you will continue joint work with MEPhI while working in your countries. I believe that we’ll welcome many of you as university professors, executives of the nuclear industry of your countries," Strikhanov was quoted as saying during the ceremony.

The graduates had made the right choice to get the education from one of the leading Russian universities, Strikhanov continued, expressing his hope for further partnership.

Marina Karaseva, Human Resources Director of Akkuyu Nuclear JSC, also extended greetings to the young specialists.

"Speaking Russian, you’ll be able to directly learn from the experience of your Russian colleagues-mentors, but the most important thing is that you’ll bring knowledge of state-of-the-art Russian nuclear technologies in the nuclear industries of your countries," she said.

She underlined that the graduates have learned a lot from the experienced university faculty.

"We count on your active involvement into the implementation of the project of construction of the first nuclear power plant in Turkey. Work at NPP has a lot of challenges for the extended period of time, much-needed profession and secure employment for many years," she noted.

The Akkuyu project started with an intergovernmental agreement signed between Turkey and Russia on May 12, 2010. Rosatom and participants will build the plant comprising four units, each of which has a capacity of 1,200 megawatts.

The plant will have a working life of 8,000 hours per year, and will produce 35 billion kilowatts of electricity at full capacity, which will meet about 10 percent of Turkey's electricity needs.

The plant has an operational date for the first reactor set for 2023, while the plant is expected to be up and running at full capacity by 2025.

Training of the staff for Akkuyu NPP in Russia was initiated in 2011. Last year, 35 students from Turkey graduated and received their diplomas on “Nuclear power plants: design, operation and engineering” specialisation.

Following 6.5 years in MEPhI, all graduates were hired by Akkuyu Nuclear JSC, according to Rosatom. The company said that now over 140 Turkish students continue their education in Russian universities "under the program of target preparation."

"All of us connect the future with the project of the NPP construction in Turkey. We ought to apply all knowledge and skills obtained and be useful for our country," one of the graduates, Gulben Yildiz, was quoted as saying.

"Practically all neighbouring countries have operating NPPs and Turkey highly needs nuclear power generation. Nuclear power plants are reliable and environment-friendly clean source of energy and Akkuyu NPP will become one of the safest in the world," she continued.

UPDATE – Turkish defense minister meets with US counterpart

            ADDS FURTHER DETAILS</p>  <p>By Umar Farooq</p>  <p>WASHINGTON (AA) - Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar arrived in Washington on Friday together with Chief of General Staff Yasar Guler to discuss Syria and other issues with their U.S. counterparts.</p>  <p>Greeted by Acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, Akar was welcomed with a ceremony that included a military band and three cannons that fired off artillery rounds in honor of his arrival.</p>  <p>The two then entered the Pentagon, where they prepared for a meeting.</p>  <p>“We wanted to do something special, so we brought out the cannons with [Joint Chiefs of Staff] Chairman [Gen. Joseph] Dunford’s permission,” Shanahan said to Akar.</p>  <p>Shanahan highlighted the importance of the meeting, saying he wants to work with Ankara to find solutions to the problems in Syria and was looking forward to making progress.</p>  <p>“Our visit is important not only for bilateral relations, but also for security and stability in the region,” said Akar, who thanked Shanahan for his invitation.</p>  <p>Akar also took the opportunity to discuss the terrorist organizations that Turkey is dealing with.</p>  <p>“I would like to underline the difference between the YPG, PYD, PKK type terrorist organizations,” he said.</p>  <p>“We have never had any problem with Kurds or other ethnicities in Turkey or outside Turkey in Syria. But there will be fighting against terrorist organizations.”</p>  <p>Akar and Shanahan discussed cooperation in defense fields, operations against Daesh in Syria, and Turkey’s concerns over U.S. support for the YPG/PYD in Syria.</p>  <p>Akar underscored the need for cooperation between the two countries to maintain Syria’s political and territorial integrity as well as Turkey’s determination to fight against terrorist organizations, including the PKK, YPG, PYD, Daesh and FETO.</p>  <p>The two leaders highlighted the rooted strategical partnership between the two countries and NATO alliance especially in Afghanistan, Kosovo and Iraq. They said they would also discuss Turkey’s S-400 missile defense system deal with Russia.</p>  <p>Ankara is planning to purchase 100 F-35 fighter jets from the U.S. pending congressional approval. Thirty fighter jets have already been approved for purchase.</p>  <p>Washington, however, has expressed concern over Turkey's S-400 purchase, saying the system might obtain confidential information on the fighter jets, including their detection range and operation mode.

Saudi crown prince ignores Uighurs during China visit

            By Vakkas Dogantekin</p>  <p>ANKARA (AA) – Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman turned a blind eye to the plight of China’s Uighur Muslims when he met Friday with President Xi Jinping in Beijing. </p>  <p>The Uighur community both inside and outside China had expected bin Salman, the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia and custodian of Islam’s holiest sites, to raise the issue of China’s human rights violations against ethnic Uighurs. </p>  <p>Instead, he chose to side with China. </p>  <p>&quot;We respect and support China's right to take counter-terrorism and de-extremism measures to safeguard national security. We stand ready to strengthen cooperation with China,&quot; bin Salman said, according to China’s state-run Xinhua news agency. </p>  <p>- Plight of Uighurs</p>  <p>China’s Xinjiang region is home to around 10 million Uighurs. The Turkic Muslim group, which makes up around 45 percent of Xinjiang’s population, has long accused China’s authorities of cultural, religious and economic discrimination.<br>

Up to 1 million people, or about 7 percent of the Muslim population in Xinjiang, have been incarcerated in an expanding network of “political re-education” camps, according to U.S. officials and UN experts.

In a report last September, Human Rights Watch accused the Chinese government of a “systematic campaign of human rights violations” against Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang.

According to the 117-page report, the Chinese government conducted “mass arbitrary detention, torture and mistreatment” of Uighur Turks in the region.

– Turkey's position

Turkey earlier this month slammed China’s systematic assimilation policy for Uighur Turks, with Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy calling it “a great embarrassment for humanity".

"It is no longer a secret that more than one million Uighur Turks, who are exposed to arbitrary arrest, are subjected to torture and political brainwashing in concentration centers and prisons," Aksoy said.

Turkey has urged China’s authorities to respect the fundamental human rights of Uighur Turks and shut down the concentration camps, Aksoy said.

"We also call on the international community and UN Secretary General to take effective steps to end the human tragedy in Xinjiang," he added.

FETO-linked daily in Macedonia terminates print edition

            By Adnan İdriz and Dzihat Aliju</p>  <p>SKOPJE, Macedonia (AA) - A newspaper in Macedonia linked to the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO) ended its print publication Friday.  </p>  <p>The decision was prompted by Turkey’s active struggle against FETO, declining sales and financial difficulties.</p>  <p>Zaman Macedonia will move its operation online to social media, according to a statement on its website.</p>  <p>FETO and its U.S.-based leader, Fetullah Gulen, orchestrated the defeated coup of July 15, 2016 which left 251 people martyred and nearly 2,200 injured.</p>  <p>Ankara accuses FETO of being behind a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police and judiciary.</p>  <p>In 2018, the Macedonian government approved direct funding for 11 newspapers, including Zaman Macedonia, which received €14,700 ($16,795).</p>  <p>The decision was announced by State Minister Robert Popovski during a press conference. </p>  <p>On Wednesday, a group of people in Macedonia protested the country’s financial support for the newspaper.

US troops in Syria to help create safe zone: Pentagon

            By Umar Farooq</p>  <p>WASHINGTON (AA) - A couple hundred American troops will remain in Syria after the U.S. pullout as part of a multinational force to establish a safe zone in the region, the Pentagon said Friday.</p>  <p>&quot;U.S. forces numbering a couple hundred will remain in northeast Syria as part of a multinational force,&quot; Pentagon spokesman Sean Robertson said. </p>  <p>&quot;Safe zone is the terminology,&quot; he said.</p>  <p>Robertson said the U.S. is looking at the &quot;safe zone along the Turkish border&quot;.</p>  <p>&quot;The multinational observing and monitoring force will be made up primarily of NATO allies, who along with U.S. forces will maintain stability and prevent an ISIS resurgence in Syria,&quot; Robertson added, using another term for Daesh.</p>  <p>A defense official who spoke to Anadolu Agency on condition of anonymity said Turkish and SDF forces would not be involved in the planned safe zone.</p>  <p>On Thursday, the White House said 200 troops will remain in Syria as part of a peacekeeping effort. However, a report published by The Washington Post said 400 troops will remain, with 200 in northeast Syria and another 200 at the al-Tanf garrison in southern Syria.</p>  <p>&quot;The U.S. will maintain a presence at the al-Tanf garrison in southern Syria,&quot; said Robertson.</p>  <p>The base at al-Tanf has been viewed by some within the administration as a critical foil to Iran establishing a land route from Tehran to Damascus via Iraq.</p>  <p>*Kasim Ileri contributed to this report from the Pentagon

Turkish defense minister meets with US counterpart

            By Umar Farooq</p>  <p>WASHINGTON (AA) - Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar arrived in Washington on Friday together with Chief of General Staff Yasar Guler to discuss Syria and other issues with their U.S. counterparts. </p>  <p>Greeted by Acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, Akar was welcomed with a ceremony that included a military band and three cannons that fired off artillery rounds in honor of his arrival.</p>  <p>The two then entered the Pentagon, where they prepared for a meeting.</p>  <p>“We wanted to do something special, so we brought out the cannons with [Joint Chiefs of Staff] Chairman Gen. Joseph] Dunford’s permission,” Shanahan said to Akar.</p>  <p>Shanahan highlighted the importance of the meeting, saying he wants to work with Ankara to find solutions to the problems in Syria and was looking forward to making progress.</p>  <p>“Our visit is important not only for bilateral relations, but also for security and stability in the region,” said Akar, who thanked Shanahan for his invitation.</p>  <p>Akar also took the opportunity to discuss the terrorist organizations that Turkey is dealing with.</p>  <p>“I would like to underline the difference between the YPG, PYD, PKK type terrorist organizations,” he said.</p>  <p>“We have never had any problem with Kurds or other ethnicities in Turkey or outside Turkey in Syria. But there will be fighting against terrorist organizations.”</p>  <p>The two leaders said they will also discuss Turkey’s S-400 missile defense system deal with Russia.</p>  <p>Ankara is planning to purchase 100 F-35 fighter jets from the U.S. pending congressional approval. Thirty fighter jets have already been approved for purchase.</p>  <p>Washington, however, has expressed concern over Turkey's S-400 purchase, saying the system might obtain confidential information on the fighter jets, including their detection range and operation mode.